Take a guided tour through the the Sacred Seeds Sanctuary, a garden showcasing Native American medicinal plants in their natural habitat. Your guide, a curator of ethnobotany at Missouri Botanical Garden, will explain the rich cultural history of Native Americans in the Missouri region, their traditions of medicinal plant use, and the legacy that these cultres have left on medicine today. Designed for adults only.
From the Andes to the Himalayas, from the Steppes of Asia to the New World, medicinal herbs have for millennia sustained traditional societies. The World Health Organization estimates that 90% of the population of developing countries relies on medicinal herbs to meet primary health-care needs. Through the tools of modern science, medicinal herbs have also inspired many pharmaceuticals on which industrial societies rely. Now, these herbal treasures are under attack, as overharvesting and global climate change threaten many medicinal herbs with extinction.
Also endangered are the languages and healing traditions of indigenous cultures. Anthropologists believe that every two weeks a language disappears, a traditional culture comes to an end, and the collective herbal wisdom of a people vanishes.
Layer that loss of traditional herbal medicine on top of the worldwide collapse of biodiversity. How serious is that loss of biodiversity? According to Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BCGI), loss of habitat combined with over-harvesting threatens the survival of the over 70,000 currently known medicinal plant species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) calculates current extinction rates 100 to 1000 times higher than normally occurring in periods of evolutionary stability, which means we are in the midst of an unprecedented mass extinction event.
We must act immediately, on a worldwide basis, lest we squander our precious legacy of herbal medicine. If we fail to decisively protect endangered habitats, species, and traditional herbal wisdom, we will bequeath to future generations an impoverished planet with diminished opportunities for healing.
Sacred Seeds is managed at the William L. Brown Center at the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the largest and most active botanical research institutes in the world. Creating a global model of sustainable development through botanical research programs, the WLBC works closely with communities in host countries and has long-term success in finding practical solutions to conservation issues. From this position, we can provide the sanctuaries with valuable resources, including:
- Direction, feedback, guidance and advice from our team, linking our experiences in botany, anthropology, traditional healing and conservation with the collective experience of all Sacred Seed sanctuaries.
- Seed storage training, with the possibility of building a relationship with large seed storage facilities.
- Training in taxonomy, the science of identifying and naming living organisms, which is the backbone of both plant medicine and conservation.
- Publishing assistance and templates for creating educational, scientifically valid literature, and creating a “Sacred Seeds Book” for worldwide distribution.
- International visibility through Sacred Seeds. Our program and message are being spread around the world, linking gardens with concrete needs to people and organizations who can provide the support they need to thrive.
Wendy Applequist is an assistant curator in the William L. Brown Center. She earned a Ph.D. in plant systematics from Iowa State University in 1999, and has been at the Garden since 2000. She manages medicinal plant research projects and natural products discovery programs in the U.S., Madagascar, and Vietnam, and conducts taxonomic research on endemic plants of Madagascar
- Pictures courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden
- website: www.mobot.org